Digital Object Management

A Trusted Digital Repository (TDR) is one whose mission is to provide reliable, long-term access to managed digital resources to its designated community, now and in the future. (RLG-OCLC, ''Trusted Digital Repositories: Attributes and Responsibilities'', p.5.) Trusted Digital Repository literature and practice is about long-term viability, trustworthiness, and preservation, while HOPE, simply put, is not. The HOPE project has the concrete short-term goal of standardizing and harmonizing metadata for inclusion into discovery services. It does not have the stated goal of developing sustainable digital object management practice. Nevertheless, HOPE is a best practice network, and as such must look beyond the short-term goals of a three-year project. While HOPE is not yet about the longue durée, it is about supporting access and seamless discovery-to-delivery for the designated community, and thus the network will sooner or later run up against problems of reliability and sustainability.

There is now a growing demand in the cultural heritage sector for a consistent approach to the creation, management, and delivery of digital content through standards, conventions, guidelines, and best practices.
The very real benefits of sound digital object management to social history institutions can be seen in three areas:

  • ''Interoperability'' is a challenge in a sector characterized by various content, diverse approaches, and a wide range in available resources. The adoption of common policies and practices by a community of content producers can be seen as the first step to broader cooperation across the cultural sector. Perhaps more importantly, it can also serve to sustain the community itself—with benefits that outlast any particular funding scheme.
  • ''Long-term preservation'' is supported in some measure by good planning during the digitization phase—lowering the potential risk of data loss and obsolete formats. These issues can be tackled in part without implementing robust preservation suites. The introduction of preferred file formats and file naming conventions, of sound metadata selection and collection methods may help ensure the success of future preservation efforts.
  • ''Security, authenticity, integrity'' in the age of distributed systems is becoming an acute problem. At the present stage, the guidelines do not include specific recommendations on back-up procedures and disaster recovery services but do highlight the importance of capturing provenance-related information at the early stage of the life cycle and of periodic bit integrity checks thereafter.

In The Social History Institution, HOPE described the organizational, legal, and technological challenges faced by today's social history institutions, offering general recommendations to confront these challenges. The following sections proffer detailed guidance on day-to-day digital object management, specifically treating those issues directly confronted by HOPE: underlying content formats, permanent identification, and the collection of basic administrative metadata.

These guidelines are not (and cannot be) merely a description of HOPE practice. Neither the HOPE system as a whole nor the individual HOPE-Compliant Local Object Repositories have met the benchmarks set out in Trusted Digital Repository literature. Instead, recommendations are based on the most up-to-date standards and secondary literature—what might be called the 'current thinking' in the field. Nevertheless, rather than take a completely top-down approach, HOPE has attempted to ground high-level abstractions with case studies and other real data from social history institutions. While by no means revolutionary, the real life examples provided may prove a useful check to those who carry out research in the upper echelons and a more apt guide to those actually working with social history materials.

Related Resources

RLG-OCLC. ''Trusted Digital Repositories: Attributes and Responsibilities''. RLG-OCLC Report. Mountain View, Calif.: RLG, May 2002. (

This section last updated July 2013. Content is no longer maintained.